Why Distance Runners Need Speed Work
Winter is usually not the best time to get in speed work. Sure, there’s the treadmill, but it’s not the same as running on the road or track. If you’re a runner living in a cold weather climate, the snow and ice have made it difficult to get in any quality speed work. Base building is obviously important, but now it’s time to run a little faster.
2013 was a great running year for me. Although I did have one disappointing race, I set a PR in the marathon and half marathon. I did this, in part, by ramping up my speed work. I tried a variety of workouts, but was always doing one or two focused, faster efforts each week. All of them helped me feel like I was running stronger than I ever had before.
The Importance of Speed Work
If you want to continue to see progress in your running for the long-term, you need to incorporate regular and consistent speed work into your training. Even when you’re between training cycles, some form of speed and strength development is important.
If you are primarily a half or full marathon runner, you may not pay too much attention to your speed. Like most, your focus lies on logging tons and tons of miles. According to Jeff Gaudette, this inattention to speed development
impairs your ability to generate explosive muscle power, which results in the decline of running efficiency and economy and, eventually, form starts to break down. This loss of speed is even more pronounced with age, as studies show speed is the first of your abilities to deteriorate as you get older.
If you are sick of doing the “marathon shuffle”, or are getting frustrated that your 5k, 10k or half marathon times keep getting slower, try one of the plans below. We all inevitably slow as we age, but the decline doesn’t have to be as sharp or stark if you set yourself up well now.
Why Speed Work?
According to McMillian Running, there are three simple reasons you should incorporate speed work into your training:
- It improves your running economy. Essentially, shorter, faster repeats train your body to burn less fuel while going further. It’s like getting better gas mileage for your legs.
- It breaks up the boredom. Distances runners have to run a lot, and it’s more fun to get in some speed, knowing it will make you faster overall.
- Short, fast repeats allow you to insert some volume of running at a pace that is significantly faster than race pace. If your goal is a 9:00/mile, you’ll do workouts at 8:10-8:50/mile, which allows 9:00 to feel easier.
3 Speed Workouts
If you’re struggling to understand or figure out how to add speed work to your already existing plan, fear not! Below are 3 sample speed work plans.
I’ve reached out to three pro runners with Team USA Minnesota and asked them to put together some sample speed work plans. You’ll see they are designed for the month of April as a lead up to the Medtronic TC 1 Mile (more on that below).
Disclaimer - If you’ve never done speed work before, start easy!
They should be somewhat self explanatory, but if you have questions, PLEASE don’t hesitate to contact us.
April Speed Challenge
As mentioned yesterday, we’re teaming up with Twin Cities in Motion to bring you the April Mile Speed Challenge presented by the Medtronic TC 1 Mile. We’re still working out some of the details, but it will involve tracking your speed workouts for the month leading up to the Medtronic TC 1 Mile.
Here are a some of the prizes you’ll be competing for:
- Two $35 TCM “Run Card” gift cards.
- Three $10 Caribou Coffee gift cards
- Four pairs of Twin Cities In Motion FITSOKs for prizes.
Plus a few more that we’re getting finalized. Stay tuned for more details later this week.
Your Speed Work
If you’re currently doing speed work as part of your training, what’s been working? If not, why and how can we help? Leave us a comment below.